UKHSA COVID-19 Rapid Reviews

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UKHSA COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Service
Rapid review process
Table of publications



The primary role of the COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Service (RES) is to support the use of evidence within UKHSA’s COVID-19 response. This is achieved by identification of rapid reviews on relevant topics (both published and ongoing), production of evidence summaries, briefings and rapid reviews, and by identification of evidence gaps.

Our team consists of the Head of COVID-19 RES, evidence reviewers, information scientists and business operational support, plus a flexible pool of topic experts.


Rapid review process 

flow chart describing the rapid review process

[Last updated: 24 March 2022]

We produce the following 6 outputs:

Scoping Search – a search of COVID-19 review repositories and additional sources [see current list], in order to quickly identify published or ongoing relevant reviews.

Scoping Summary – a brief summary (1-2 pages) of mainly review-level evidence, found from the above scoping search, with the aim of understanding the amount and quality of review-level evidence available on a topic. A scoping summary usually involves an appraisal of any reviews identified, using AMSTAR 2. Scoping summaries end with options for further work, including producing an evidence summary, conducting a new rapid review (or updating an existing review) or no further action.  Note: a scoping summary is produced for every question unless a new review is fast-tracked due to importance.

Evidence Summarya detailed summary and quality appraisal of one or more relevant reviews that answers a specific question, or makes a significant contribution towards answering a question. Note: an evidence summary is produced if a relevant review of acceptable quality is identified, and aims to avoid duplication of effort by summarising existing reviews instead of replicating a similar review. Occasionally, an evidence summary will be produced using a lower quality review due to time constraints.

Rapid Evidence Briefingit is sometimes necessary to conduct a rapid review at pace in a very short timeframe; Rapid Evidence Briefings are produced within several days and most of the work is completed by one reviewer. Formal data extraction or risk of bias assessment may not be conducted, unless time allows.

Rapid Reviewour rapid reviews adopt systematic review methods, with parts of the review process simplified, to allow a product to be delivered in a shorter timescale. They involve a systematic search, screening, data extraction, critical appraisal and synthesis of the relevant evidence, using a protocol, in order to answer a specific question. Timeframes to produce these vary from 3 – 8 weeks. The search strategy and study selection methods for each of our rapid reviews are included in the documents in the table of publications below. Note: a rapid review may be produced if no existing recent review of acceptable quality is found.

Rapid Review Update – it is sometimes necessary to update a rapid review. The approach may vary depending on time available, but ideally will include a full repeat of the review methods above. Either a full report or a brief update report will be produced depending on available evidence. 

Table of publications showing review questions, current stage of review and last search date

Review questionScoping summary / searchStatus of rapid reviewDate of last search
COVID-19 transmission from the deceased. A rapid review
(brief update 1)
COVID-19 transmission from the deceased. A rapid review (22/07/21)Completed17/03/2021
The effectiveness of vaccination against long COVID. A rapid evidence briefing (15/02/22)Completed12/01/2022
The effect of vaccination on transmission of COVID-19. A rapid evidence briefing [Update 1] (27/04/22)Completed
[Supplementary material]
The effect of vaccination on transmission of COVID-19. A rapid review (27/01/22)Completed
[Supplementary material]
Face coverings
The effectiveness of face coverings to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in community settings. A rapid review [Update 2] (09/11/21)Completed
[Supplementary material]
Effectiveness of face coverings/masks in non-healthcare settings [Update 1] (29/01/21)Completed
[Supplementary material]
Effectiveness of face coverings/masks in non-healthcare settings (26/06/20)Scoping summary (04/06/2020)
Scoping search
[Supplementary material]
The role of face coverings in mitigating the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. An overview of evidence (produced as part of a Respiratory Evidence Panel Statement )Completed28/04/2021
Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 over distances greater than two metres: a rapid systematic review (20/10/21)Completed (preprint)21/04/2021
Transmission of COVID-19 in school settings and interventions to reduce transmission: a rapid review [Update 2] (09/04/21)Completed
[Supplementary material]
Transmission of COVID-19 in school settings and interventions to reduce the transmission: a rapid review [Update 1] (26/09/20)Completed27/07/2020
Transmission of COVID-19 in schools and effectiveness of interventions to reduce transmission (28/07/20)Scoping searchCompleted
[Supplementary material]
Adult Social Care
Factors associated with COVID-19 in care homes and domiciliary care, and effectiveness of interventions: a rapid review (28/10/20)Scoping searchCompleted31/08/2020
What is the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when delivering domiciliary care, and how effective are interventions that aim to minimise that risk? (29/06/20)Scoping searchCompleted02/06/2020
What is the effectiveness of restricting staff movements, or of cohorting residents, for reducing spread of COVID-19 in care homes? (15/05/20)Scoping summary
Scoping search
Interventions to reduce COVID-19 transmission in adult and social care settingsContact us
Mental health
Protecting the mental health of vulnerable people living in institutions following infectious disease outbreaks: a rapid review (12/02/21)Completed06/08/2020
The effectiveness of trauma informed approaches to prevent adverse outcomes in mental health and wellbeing: a rapid review (12/02/21)Completed21/08/2020
Factors contributing to the transmission of COVID-19 within food
manufacturing and processing settings. A rapid review
Transmission of COVID-19 on Public Transport: a rapid review (26/09/20)Scoping searchCompleted24/08/2020
Temperature screening for reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (01/06/20)Scoping summary
Scoping search
Opening up of large scale venuesContact us


New reviews will be added to the table as soon as they are accepted by the COVID-19 Evidence team.



UKHSA’s rapid reviews aim to provide the best available evidence to decision makers in a timely and accessible way, based on published peer-reviewed scientific papers, unpublished reports and papers on pre-print servers. Please note that the reviews: i) use accelerated methods and may not be representative of the whole body of evidence publicly available; ii) have undergone an internal, but not independent, peer review; and iii) are only valid as of the date stated on the review.    

In the event that this review is shared externally, please note additionally, to the greatest extent possible under any applicable law, that UKHSA accepts no liability for any claim, loss or damage arising out of, or connected with the use of, this review by the recipient and/or any third party including that arising or resulting from any reliance placed on, or any conclusions drawn from, the review.


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